Monday, July 31, 2006

Insane Clown Posse: Environmental Edition

So what do you do when it's 112 degrees outside and you don't have central air?

Well, if you were me, you'd be in a state of serious undress, sitting in front of a large pedestal fan that's succeeded in cooling at least some of the air in your living room to a relatively brisk 80-something. You'd be sucking down great quantities of iced coffee. And you'd be waxing cranky about any number of things.

(Note: For those of you concerned about The Codeman, my li'l dog -- he is, at this moment, prancing merrily around the house eating his dinner kibbles one by one, as is his wont. Earlier this evening he insisted on plastering his hot and furry self against my thigh for his evening nap. He seems to love this weather. Perhaps he's having some genetic Ur-memory of sunny days spent lounging on the docks of Malta.)

Anyhow, for your reading pleasure, here's Pat Robertson and Jim Inhofe -- the latter being someone who, just so you know, helps craft legislation that impacts our lives as American citizens -- discussing global warming. And in case that's not enough scientific expertise to amaze you for one day, you can also visit here or here or here .

At the risk of getting all Andy Rooney here as I mop the sweat from my brow: What is it about Christians who insist on getting all their information on everything through the filter of "Christian" media and websites and books and preachers? I mean, what is with that? Do you do that? Of course you don't.

I love my pastor. If he's talking to me about Christian theology or praxis, I'm listening. But I don't go to him to find out how I should vote. I don't ask him for investment advice, or seek his guidance on sartorial matters. I don't ask him what to eat or what books to read. And I don't consider him to be an authority on science, nor would I ask him his professional opinion on scientific matters. (Although I might ask his wife, who actually is a real, live scientist.)

But I think there are some people out there who, if a perceived (or, more accurately, marketed) Man Of God told them what hand to use in effecting their personal hygiene, and included the magic adjectives "biblical" or "Scriptural" in that directive, would meekly tie their other hand behind their backs on their way to the john.

I just don't get that.

"Here -- have some biblical poisoned Kool-Aid."


People can be really stoopid.

And it's too darned hot.

Yoopin' It Up

We’re going fishing we just can’t wait
We love the smell of stinky bait
Leaky boats, waders too, a cooler full of ice cold brew
Reel ‘em in, watch ‘em flop, i love to fish i just can’t stop
When this fishing trip is through
I’ll bet i have more fish than you
I’ll bet i have more fish than you. -- "Da Fishing Trip," Da Yoopers

I'm going on vacation next week. A real vacation. The first one in a long, long time.

I'm going to the Upper Peninsula, to the shores of Lake Superior, up by Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and the Seney Wildlife Refuge.

The itinerary is pretty fluid -- a side excursion to the Soo Locks, some salmon fishing, some basic tourist rubbernecking. My previous exposure to the Upper Peninsula has been limited to St. Ignace -- sometimes known as "Swingin' Iggy" by the ironic residents of those parts -- and the regionally famous Mystery Spot (no jokes, please). So I'm entertaining suggestions for places to go/things to do from those of you who've traveled more extensively above the Big Mac. Quirky, off-the-beaten-path (but not too far off) places of interest are especially appreciated.

So whadda we wanna see up dere, eh?

The pasty -- the ultimate Upper Peninsulan soul food. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Posted by Picasa

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Arrrrrr! Preach Like a Pirate!

My fellow Lutherans and I have a reputation on Beliefnet for being a bit ironic and ascerbic -- oh, why varnish the truth; we're just smartasses. Anyway, a few of us were in a group discussion of church marketing, and my Beliefnet pal and fellow bloglodyte Corey, of Perpetual Lent , suggested that what Christendom really needs right now in order to be hip and happenin' is a pirate-themed church, a la Pirates of the Caribbean. We had some fun with this -- "Avast, ye scurvy, sinful dogs!";"Arrrrr, mateys, make a decision fer the Lord Jaysus now, or else the Almighty'll shiver yer timbers and make ye walk the plank to hell!"; a suggestion for a Captain-Morgan's-and-hardtack Eucharist -- when one of Corey's blog readers informed us of this book :

How sad is it when reality robs you of a good punchline.

There's No Place Like Home

This is, more or less, what I wound up preaching today.

It was Saturday -- yesterday -- and I hadn't finished this sermon yet. I hadn't started this sermon yet. So I did what any other dedicated, responsible individual scheduled to preach on Sunday would do: I went to an all-day music festival. (It was, by the way, the Evart Folk Fest -- a great little folk festival with big-name talent like Claudia Schmidt.)

Anyway -- my mission, sitting there in my lawn chair in the sun, was to somehow hear a new word in an old story -- the feeding of the five thousand. It's one of those Gospel stories that most of us have heard so often that we tend to listen to it without thinking too hard about it. Jesus...big crowd...little kid with a little food...Jesus blesses the turns into lots and lots of food, with baskets of leftovers.

When I was a little kid and heard this story, the picture I had in my mind was of the small fish and barley loaves Jesus blessed magically multiplying before everyone's eyes, like popcorn in the popper. And that's as far as I took the point of it all: Jesus was like a magician who could make exciting stuff happen: Watch him pull a rabbit out of his hat. Watch him pull dinner for 5,000 out of a couple of pieces of bread and some fish.

But I, and we, in hindsight, reading this story through the lens of faith, know that Jesus wasn't performing a magic trick for the entertainment or even for the material comfort of the crowd, nor is that what the Gospel writer wants us to get out of this text. The author sees this event as a sign -- as a significant event in which the Reign of God breaks through into the brokenness and want of our human experience and lets us know that God loves us and means us well and cares for us.

John Waish, a Maryknoll priest, has said that the deepest human needs are to love, to be loved and to blossom outward -- to live lives that mean something. In the story of Jesus feeding the five thousand, in last week's Gospel lesson as well as this week's, we find a Jesus who loves -- who loves other people even when they interrupt his retreat with his friends; who makes room for them in his itinerary; who heals them and teaches them and who cares about their physical needs as well as their spiritual needs. There's sometimes an either/or mindset in Christianity that wants to only care about one of these aspects of living, the spiritual OR the material. That's not the witness of Scripture; God's shalom, God's intended wholeness for individuals and societies, is about both spiritual and physical wholeness. We see Jesus, in our lesson, caring about both.

We also, I think, see what happens when people loved by God love God back, and by extension love another back. One of the most poignant images that come to my mind as I read this Scripture text is that of the young boy, in the midst of the five thousand men and who knows how many women and little kids, offering up his meager supper. All he knew was that the crowd needed food and that Jesus, whom he loved and whom he had followed to this place, was asking for food for the people; so the boy offered what he had.

Imagine what would have happened if the whole crowd, seeing and hearing Jesus taking blessing that modest contribution, wound up responding in the same way -- by offering what food they had stashed away in their traveling bags. Imagine what would have happened if, in doing this, divisions in that society, reflected in that crowd, started to melt away - divisions between haves and have-nots, between the "righteous" and the "sinners," the "clean" and the "unclean"; between Jews and non-Jews; between ages and genders and clans and regions. Imagine if that crowd had, for just that short time, mirrored what God's shalom really looks like. Would that be a miracle, do you think? I do. Especially in light of current events, I'd submit that that would be a far bigger miracle than the cartoon miracle of my childhood's imagination. I think that's why the people in our Gospel lesson, in their clueless and clumsy way, tried to make Jesus a "king" in the political sense -- they tried to capture this event and make it last forever, not understanding, just as we sometimes don't understand, that Jesus was inviting them not to be merely passive recipients, but to be active participants in the life of love and service that God intends.

Yesterday I had the privilege of hearing John McCutcheon, one of the best songwriters in the folk genre, and I think one of the best songwriters, period. He sang a song, "Calling the Children Home," based on his memories of his mother standing in the doorway calling his large family to the supper table, back when he was a child. The refrain goes:

Home to the table and the big, black pot
Everybody's got enough, 'though we ain't got a lot
No one is forgotten, no one is alone
When she's calling all the children home

McCutcheon goes on to wish, in song, for a day when everyone, everywhere, is called home in that same loving, caring way:

Home to the table, home to the feast
Where the last are first and the greatest are the least
Where the rich will envy what the poor have got
Everybody's got enough, 'though we ain't got a lot
No one is forgotten, no one is alone
When we're calling all the children home...
No one is forgotten, no one is alone
From the shacks in Soweto to the ice of Nome
From Baghdad City to the streets of Rome
When we're calling all the children home

When Jesus lifted up that child's barley loaves and fish and blessed them, he was calling the people home -- home to God's Reign, where we are loved, and love, and where we blossom outward in service to God and to one another. When we gather together at the Eucharist, the great thanksgiving, and partake of that simple, sacred meal of bread and wine, Christ is also calling us home into his Reign. In our own lives this week, as we leave church today, by God's grace we'll be lifting up our own divinely-given gifts, whatever they may be, just the way the boy in the Gospel lesson offered his simple meal to Jesus.

Let us pray that as we do this -- as we offer our time, our talents, our resources, ourselves -- to God, that God may use them to further God's Reign, where everybody's got enough; where no one is forgotten, where no one is alone. Let us allow God to use our lives as voices to call all God's children home. Amen.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Saturday Poetry Blogging

A day late, but hopefully not a dollar short.

This is actually a song lyric I heard today at the Evart Folk Fest. The town of Evart is only about the size of Outer Podunk...but for the past couple of years it's attracted some fairly well known folk singers to its nascent mid-summer folk festival. My friend and I had a splendiferous time sitting in the sun by the newly restored town train depot grooving to tunes by the likes of John McCutcheon, Claudia Schmidt, Ann Hills, Kitty Donohoe, Mustard's Retreat and others. (If anyone is traveling around western Michigan in late July, check this festival out...there's a rail-trail that runs through Evart, right past the concert venue, and camping nearby.)

Here's a song that John McCutcheon sang for us -- as I'm sitting here trying to compose my sermon for tomorrow(!), it seems somehow apropos when pondering the feeding of the five thousand: Calling All the Children Home .

Saturday Bloom Blogging

Actually my blooms aren't very photogenic right now -- they've got that late-summer worn-and-torn look, exacerbated by our current heat wave -- so here's a picture of happier times in my perennial garden, a couple of weeks ago.

Pinks Posted by Picasa

Friday, July 28, 2006

Fryday Five

What's the high temperature today where you are?
Right now it's 88 degrees officially, but I'm sure it's past 90 in reality.

Favorite way(s) to beat the heat
Hang out at my friend's centrally air conditioned home. Lots of iced coffee. Ice cream. Heck -- ice.

"It's not the heat, it's the humidity." Evaluate this statement.
Speaking as a lover of autumn sweater weather -- pfffft. It's both.

Discuss one or more of the following: sauna, hot tub, sweat lodge, warm-stone massage.
I've had one sauna experience. By my second minute in the sauna, I was convinced that I was going to die right then, right there; that I was going to steam like a lobster in a pot. But I hung in there. And then I ran outside (in a blizzard, no less) and jumped into the snow. Buck nekkid. Really. I'm not sure I could do this again. And I'm not sure anyone would want to see me do this again.

Hottest you've ever been in your life.
Once when I was a kid I experienced heatstroke during the annual church picnic -- cold sweats, pale skin, dizziness, nausea; the whole thing. I hated church picnics, and my dad thought I was faking so we would go home. I wasn't.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

A Remembrance of Things Potato

It’s funny how one thing, how even one kitchen aroma, can evoke so many memories.

Last week I made a batch of German hot potato salad. For the uninitiated, this involves frying up some diced bacon, and reserving that; then adding some onion and celery to some of the bacon fat and sautéing that until the vegetables are soft, then adding some sugar and flour, and then adding cider vinegar and water and seasoning, and tweaking it until you’ve created a hot dressing with a pleasing sweet/sour ratio. You then pour that over hot, boiled, sliced potatoes, and add the bacon, and let that sit and marinate for awhile, and finally top it all off with hard-boiled egg.

This is a staple of church potlucks and holiday celebrations in my family and general ethnic neck of the woods. And when I was growing up my mother also made huge batches of it, in an old bread bowl, during the haying season; not knowing exactly when the men, or just Dad and I later on in my teens, would be home for meals, it was easy to reheat on short notice, and would keep in the refrigerator for a few days.

So I was in the kitchen, working culinary alchemy on the dressing there in the frying pan, and as it thickened up and filled the air with a distinctive aroma of onion and bacon and celery and vinegar I momentarily found myself back in our old farmhouse kitchen many years ago, watching my mother, occasionally snitching a bit of bacon or celery. How odd it was, I thought, to be standing here in my own kitchen, making a bowl of potato salad by myself. There was something sad, but also something right, about doing this.

And later I got to thinking about summers in general when I was growing up. My mother canned a lot; she used to fill our fruit cellar with canned vegetables from our garden; with applesauce and pears and peaches and cherries. I was a fairly useless child – I preferred spending my summer vacations wandering our pasture looking for wild strawberries, or stalking wildlife along our drainage ditch – but once in awhile she’d succeed in collaring me for canning duty. I liked to pick vegetables, so I’d be sent to do that, or to help stuff jars with pear halves, or pick through windfall Duchess apples from the yard to find applesauce-worthy ones, or act as general go-fer between the kitchen and our basement.

And, truth be told, I enjoyed that, even though I tended to whine when asked to help. I also enjoyed our meals with our hired hands – sometimes one of the boys from the large family down the road, but usually my great-uncle E. Uncle E was a character; a “bachelor farmer,” as Garrison Keillor would say, who had a sideline as custodian for our local landfill. Unlike most of my father’s side of the family, Uncle E was tallish and rail-thin; he walked upright, like a soldier, but with a slight limp; he was given to certain clothing eccentricities that made relatives roll their eyes, like his ubiquitous engineer’s cap and his insistence on purchasing dressy, square-dancer’s blue jeans instead of standard issue workingman’s Levi’s, and ironing knife-sharp, precision creases into them. He lived with his brother, a cussing, crotchety old chain-smoking World War I veteran and fellow bachelor farmer, on their family farm, in an old unpainted house that had frightened me as a child because it looked as if it were surely haunted. (I later became the only female to ever be allowed to darken its door, albeit with my dad as chaperone – “You made history today,” Dad later noted -- and found the sort of durch-und-unter chaos that reminded me in later years of The Land of Lost Boys. And because Uncle E and his brother were enthusiastic outdoorsmen who ate everything they hunted, fished or trapped, you never knew what you’d be offered in the way of food there. Whatever it was, it was generally rolled in cracker meal and fried in a lot of fat; I ate it and didn’t ask a lot of questions.)

The story in the family was that Uncle E was a little “funny in the head” – the rest of the story, that I found out after growing up, was that his abusive father threw him into a wall when he was little, hard enough to knock him unconscious, and after that he’d never been quite the same. But I always found him funny and charming in a childlike way, and he was always kind and indulgent to me, even when I was being a nuisance out in the hayfield. He liked kids in general; on his job at the landfill, he always salvaged and cleaned up discarded toys to give away to young visitors.

He and my dad – who saved all of his vacation time from his factory day job for haying season -- baled and unloaded and stacked untold wagonloads of hay, first and second cutting. Sometimes they’d let me ride on the wagon until it filled up and my presence became a hazard. Sometimes on a weekend, if a rainstorm suddenly blew up and the hay couldn’t be baled, we’d sit and watch the Detroit Tigers on TV instead. My father, who was not much of a drinker, and Uncle E would each crack open a Carling Black Label; in those politically incorrect days I’d be given a Kinder-sized juice glass of half beer, half foam. We’d sit with a bag of potato chips and watch the game and not talk a lot.

So anyway…I made my potato salad, and thought of my mother in her rick-rack trimmed apron in our old farm kitchen, and thought of my Uncle E in his engineer’s cap and dandy jeans, and thought of my dad coming into the kitchen with him for dinner, smelling of hay and gasoline and Lava soap: “Let’s eat!”

That’s what summers used to be like at my house. It ain’t exactly Marcel Proust…but it’s my life.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Send in the Clowns: Jock Edition

Okay. Maybe I'm feeling my oats because I recently, for the first time in over 20 years, picked up a basketball and played -- not only played horse, but won, more or less, which boosted my self-esteem greatly and even led to Walter-Mittyesque fantasies about someday joining a golden-agers' b-ball team at my assisted-living facility and earning some colorful jockette nickname like Shorty or Spud as I tottered around the court. But when I read the following essay, I wanted to take this jamoke and slam-dunk him:

Should Women Play Sports?

Only slightly less nutty are Phyllis Schlafly's thoughts (is that an oxymoron?) on Title IX, submitted for your perusal.

But before you dismiss both these individuals as crackpots, and accuse me of shooting fish in a barrel -- consider that, while they're fulminating in their own over-the-top fundie fashion, their cooler-headed ideological cohorts are slowly and quietly chipping away at all the progressive legislation that gave girls and women equal access to educational and athletic opportunities. It's 10 o'clock -- do you know what legislation and ballot proposals the ladies-and-gents-against-women are pushing in your state right now?

Almost Famous

Word up, this humble blog got a mention in the latest issue of The Lutheran .

In case you are a new visitor here: You should know that there really is no such Lutheran as LutheranChik. Yes; that's right. "LutheranChik" is the brainchild of a few Lutheran girl-geek undergraduates working on an Artificial Intelligence project at a major Midwestern university. Their professor gave them a C+.

Just kidding.

As my Yooper friends might say...Holy Wah!

P.S. Since I was told to expect at least a minor uptick in blog hits as a result of this article...any of you new folks want to try and teach me euchre? There may be three dozen homemade cookies, and Internet immortality, in it for you.

P.P.S. My friends and I put together an ecumenical devotional for the Pentecost season. You can read about it here . If you like it, go to RevGalBlogPals, find the sidebar ad and purchase a copy.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Happy Anniversary, RevGalBlogPals!

It's hard to believe, but it's just a few days short of a year ago that I hooked up with the RevGalBlogPals . And what a year that was!...many "changes and chances" for all of us. What a great circle of new friends with whom to share my life, my thoughts, my prayers.

And in honor of our milestone, here are the Friday Five:

What is your first memory of the RevGalBlogPals?
I think it was Purechristianithink of Rebel Without a Pew -- and I'm trying to remember how I met her -- who first clued me in on this group of women (and, at the time, one fella) supporting one another online as they did ministry. My thought was, "Why would they want me to hang around with them? I'm not a minister." (Sometimes that priesthood-of-all-believers thing doesn't quite sink in.) But I decided, "What the hey," or words to that effect, and submitted my blog to the ring.

Have you met any of the other ring members in real life?
Not yet.

Of those you haven't met, name a few you would love to know in person.
I'd be tickled to meet any of the gang...but it would be a special pleasure to meet Kathryn of Good In Parts , because she's been such a supportive friend and counselor during my recent bereavement...and, if the meeting were on her turf, I could feed my Anglophilic jones wandering around her neighborhood and gaping openmouthed at the English countryside and the historic places. And Dash and Rainbow Pastor are so close, yet so far away...maybe one of these years...

What has Ring Membership added to your life?
I think it's been a very important source of affirmation for me personally and for my training for lay ministry (in some form yet to be determined -- whenever I think I know what it is that I want to do, the Holy Spirit moves the horizon line -- I understand she's tricky that way). I've had the opportunity to contribute to two books, something I've always wanted to do -- a fact that I still can't quite process. (I remember the day my copy of our Advent devotional came in the mail, and what it felt like to see my words in print, in a book. I think I had to be peeled off the ceiling, I was so giddy). And I've made a lot of new friends. Living in a rural area, it's very hard to find people on the same general wavelength as myself, let alone the same spiritual wavelength. The RevGalBlogPals remind me that I'm not alone, and that we're all in this exciting, challenging ministry thing together, soli Deo gloria.

Describe a hope for the future of the WebRing.
Well, I'm still militating for a cookbook...seriously, I'd like to see more avenues for smaller groups of RevGalBlogPals to get together, get to know one another more and support one another in a more focused manner. I don't even know what that means, or what that might look like...but it sounds good, doesn't it? So maybe someone reading this will get an inspiration and run with it. And -- I do hope we can pull off another devotional book for another season in the Church year.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Upping the Ante

Let's rephrase my last post: I bet that you can't teach me to play euchre. I double-dog-dare you to even try. I mean -- reread my comments in the last post and you will see how utterly clueless I am. And this is, as mentioned, after hours of tutorials.

So far we've had a man of the cloth step up to the challenge. Any other takers?

If you think -- emphasis on the think -- you can teach my card-challenged self how to play euchre -- you've got a long, uphill battle ahead of you. Are you sure you can do it? Real sure?

That's what you think.

Bring it on.

Bring it on, Tom in Ontario. E-mail me.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Euchre? I Don't Even Know Her

I have a confession.

I'm a Lutheran who can't play euchre.

[sounds of bodies dropping to the floor in shock across the Germanic sectors of Christendom]

I so can't play euchre that I have absolutely no idea what the rules or the strategies or even the point of euchre are. I have had numerous people, kind and patient tutors all, plus Yahoo! robots, attempt to teach me euchre. They have all failed.

When someone tries to walk me though a game -- when they start talking about trumps and tricks and bowers -- each of my brain synapses turns into that guy in "The Scream."

I remember my college days, when I was involved with Lutheran Student Movement. A great bunch of kids; lots of enthusiastic euchre players. It would be 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning in some drafty lodge at a camp on an LSM retreat weekend and there they'd be, playing furiously through the night. Participants would tell me the next day that they were having lots of fun, although that wasn't very obvious during the game. I felt a mixture of mystery and frustration and jealousy and shame.

Now, I don't think I'm a dumb person. I understand geometry; I understand German (or used to); I understand how to plug electronics together and program them. I taught myself how to knit; how to knit mittens even. I can divide fractions. I can figure out ratios. I've read Chaucer. I put my computer desk together my own self. I can identify birds. I can bale hay. I can write press releases.

I can't play euchre.

And this bugs me. One of the things I hate the most is not being able to understand something. Which isn't the same as not being able to do something. It's the not understanding that gets me. It turns me ape-ca-ca crazy.

If any of you out there in the blogosphere can successfully teach me how to play euchre, I promise you three dozen homemade cookies. I will mail them to you. I'm serious. Teach me euchre. If you dare.

Monday, July 17, 2006

The Herod Within

Better late than never with a thought on Sunday's sermon text.

Who was Herod Antipas?

A one-dimensional villain from Central Casting, twirling the waxed end of a black mustachio? A serial lecher? A murderer? An enemy of all that was good and right? Someone easy to hate?

Or was he more like...Tony Soprano? Or me? Or you?

Herod was a fellow who, like many of us, was squeezed between the demands of his job and the demands of his family. As Tetrarch -- a local bigshot whose family was allowed by the Roman Empire to stay in power as long as it acknowledged and deferred to the real power behind the throne -- he lived with the knowledge that he ruled solely at the pleasure of Rome. Getting along by going along was what had kept the house of Herod going for years. And this clan, like many privileged clans before and since, had its share of intrigues, conflicts and dirty family linen collecting in dark corners as it sought to consolidate and preserve what power it had.

The Gospel lesson today tells us that Herod liked John the Baptist; enjoyed hearing him preach. Perhaps there was something in John's stark simplicity of life and word, in his call to repentance and renewal and an authentic life, that resonated with a man caught in interpersonal messiness, decadence, endless capitulations to the powers and principalities. My pastor notes that most people whose lives are in a mess know their lives are in a mess; that it's a mistake to assume that they don't. Something in John's message evidently appealed to much so that he put John under what some scholars view as a kind of protective custody when his new wife Herodias grew resentful of John's no-holds-barred assessment of their relationship. (Which was probably as much or more about family "bidness" than lust.)

But when push came to shove...Herod's "no" to God overcame his "yes." Because he was a people-pleaser. Because he was vain. Because he was afraid; afraid of his "friends" and associates, afraid of his family. He made a stupid, drunken public oath that, in his culture, he was honor-bound to keep; but at some point he could have elevated rationality and human decency above his own need to save face. His evil was a banal evil indeed: evil borne in passivity, the evil of the middle manager and good-time Charlie and "whipped" partner.

How often are our thoughts and actions controlled by the same dynamics? Looking good; fitting in; fear of feeling or appearing foolish; fear of making other people mad at us; grasping at whatever crumbs of power or status fall our way; inertia in making positive, transformative changes in our lives because the alternative is easier and safer.

The temptation, in reading this story, is to identify with John the Baptist, when in fact if we're honest with ourselves we're more like Herod. That's the bad news.

The good news is that God still reaches out to us in friendship and forgiveness and invites us into a new way of relating to God and a new way of being in the world. Herod's "no" to God's friendship, which meant an untimely death not only for John the Baptist but also for Jesus, God With Us, was not enough to make God withdraw the offer. No matter what a tangled web we weave as fallen people caught in situations and systems tainted by our fallenness, God's "yes" is greater than our "no," and God's saving arm is longer and stronger then our grasp on those things that keep us alienated from God. The Herod we meet in the Gospels didn't seem to be able to trust in God's saving power in his own situation. But Jesus, the One who goes before us and shows us the way, has shown us by his own experience that we can trust in God's love and saving power, even when our circumstances suggest otherwise. Thanks be to God!

"John the Baptist Before Herod," Mattia Prettist Posted by Picasa

And Now For a Domestic Interlude

Yeah, yeah, yeah...the posts here lately have gone a little "lite." I guess that's what happens when one is distracted by giddiness. (Even when the object thereof keeps asking, "Did you blog today? Why not? I like to read your blog! Go blog!") But en route to recovering my gravitas, here are a couple of really easy salad recipes perfect for days like today, when the mercury is in the 90's, you can almost grab a handful of humid air, and you're looking for food you can just pull out of the refrigerator.

Lemon Slaw
an 8-oz. bag of coleslaw mix
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 TBS minced chives
a few pinches of a favorite herb (try thyme, lemon thyme or dill) if you wish
1 tsp or so lemon zest
1 TBS or so lemon juice
sugar or sugar substitute to taste
salt to taste
some generous grinds of pepper

Place coleslaw in a large bowl. Mix remaining ingredients in a smaller bowl; taste and adjust seasonings to your liking. Pour over slaw mix and toss. Refrigerate.

Easy Spaghetti Salad
half a pound of raw spaghetti (I like whole wheat), cooked
1/4 cup Catalina dressing
1/4 cup "zesty" Italian dressing
1/2 cucumber, diced
1 medium tomato, diced
if you wish, some diced bell pepper or strips of jarred roasted peppers -- the kind canned with garlic
McCormick's Salad Supreme seasoning to taste, or celery seed
some generous grinds of pepper

Mix everything together and refrigerate. This tastes better the next day.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Friday Poetry Blogging

An old pond!
A frog jumps in-
The sound of water.
-- Bassho

"Frog Surprise, by Melissa Cole

RevGalBlogPals Friday Five: Strained Peeves

I must be feeling very Andy Rooney today...something above this week's Friday Five really resonated...

Grammatical pet peeve: Incorrect use of apostrophes in possessive words, and the use of apostrophes to form plurals:
the three little kitten's mittens were lost.
Farm Fresh Egg's For Sale

Household pet peeve: Finding tiny bits of food on silverware or cookware after you've washed, rinsed and drained them, necessitating my washing the items all over again.

Arts & Entertainment pet peeve: This is a true tie between:
1. Period films and television shows with sloppy anachronisms in them -- say, a television show supposedly set in the 1950s, but with the characters wearing 21st century hair and using 21st century slang and concerning themselves with 21st century concerns. I start knocking off screenwriter and director IQ points when I notice this.
2. Inaccurate portrayals of religion in film and television. I remember one episode of Law and Order where the villain of the day was a big-haired, right-wing Jerry-Falwell-esque Lutheran televangelist/graduate of a Lutheran "Bible college." The whole episode was so absurd that I felt compelled to e-mail the show and suggest to the writers that, the next time they need to add religious "color" to a character, they do more research than closing their eyes and taking a finger stab in the Big Dictionary of Denominations.

Liturgical pet peeve: Lectors who have obviously not laid eyes upon the texts of the day before getting behind the lectern. Close runner-up: Acolytes who dress like they're auditioning for Survivor: Red Light District.

Wild card--pet peeve that doesn't fit any of the above categories: Automatic antivirus downloads, which slow down my already treacly dialup connection to near uselessness. I hate this.

Friday Bloom Blogging

My roses may be a disappointment, but my butterfly bush is going full tilt this summer.

A "Black Knight" butterfly bush in my new purply perennial gardenPosted by Picasa

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

LC Goes To the Casino

So I'm sitting in the casino, reading Marva Dawn...

Maybe I should back up.

I have a day job, in human services. As part of my job, I am occasionally called upon to pack up a bunch of promotional materials and displays and go on the road to area health fairs, "expos" and the like. I recently found myself at such an event.

If a sign of mental illness is doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different result, then all of us in the "helping" business seem to suffer from the same delusion -- that poor/needy people will make an effort to drive to some centralized location to be visually harangued about how poor or needy they are.

On this day's particular manifestation of this illness, the venue was a casino. Now, if your goal in life in a given 24 hours is to anesthetize yourself at a one-armed bandit and/or an all-you-can-eat buffet table, what are the odds that you're going to want to spend an hour of that time wandering around an auditorium being reminded that you're old and disabled, and don't take very good proactive care of yourself, and are going to die really soon, so you'd better get your affairs in order?

Needless to say, it was a slow day for the presenters, apart from the usual freebie vultures who descend in the first hour or so of such events to scoop up promotional gimmes. I was situated next to a medical supply equipment dealer, and by early afternoon one representative was tooling up and down the aisles in a motorized scooter while his coworker was lounging feet-up in an adaptive upholstered armchair. A couple of organizations -- organizations chronically short of funds for important services -- were trying to give away boxes and boxes of donated Reader's Digest Condensed Books and, in a particularly ironic twist of fate, fancy-schmancy high-end cookbooks (as opposed to, say, Fun With Commodity Cheese.) There's a kind of faddishness to a lot of human-service activities, and one of the current kicks is to get people reading more, to help preserve their mental faculties as they age and to wean them from hours spent in zombie-like thrall to mindless television programming. (Speaking of which...what is with the scary chick on Rock Star: Supernova? The general consensus in my living room is that she's the Girl Most Likely To Sacrifice Goats To Satan on the Full Moon. But anyway.) So these people were desperate to unload books that they would otherwise have to pack them up again and schlep back to the office.

I had a few people stop at my display...but they all lived somewhere else, so I had to refer them to services in their own counties. Then the visitors pretty much disappeared altogether. I listened to the endless ding-ding-ding of the machines on the gaming floor next door. I took pity on a fellow presenter and took one of her cookbooks, and learned how to make strawberry tiramisu and peppered strawberries and strawberry souffle'. I watched the fellow in the scooter; his booth companion told me of the times their company has been called to deliver emergency oxygen tanks to elderly patrons at the casino who, despite imminent suffocation, refuse to leave their favorite slot machines.

This tale depressed me. Casinos depress me. Now,I'm not a gambling legalist; I know people perfectly able to go there with their $15 or $20, gamble with their chump change until it's gone and then happily belly up to the buffet and call it a splendid day. That's just not my idea of a good time, unless I were with a very ironic friend who'd help me laugh at the absurdity of it all. But most of the people I see at casinos don't look like people having a good time. They look grim, as if they've just shown up for a day of hard work, and they are so seemingly obsessed with winning the big jackpot that they seem to ignore whatever other enjoyments there are to be had at the resort. I always feel sorry for the Native American cultural center near the casino, which makes a gallant effort to attact casino visitors to its facility and events. The granite-faced gamblers don't give a damn; they wouldn't know the difference between Anishnabe and wasabi, nor do they want to.

So it was almost supernaturally ironic to be sitting in the midst of this Vanity Fair reading Marva Dawn, a scathing critic of pop culture. The book in question is Truly the Community, her meditation on Paul's letter to the Romans and his appeal to a way of living and being together that preserves and celebrates our God-given uniqueness as individuals even as it binds us into a truly mutually caring, mutually accountable community of believers. Riffing on a Greek term used by Paul in his epistle, related to our word hilarity, Dawn also speaks at length about the hilarity of a well-lived Christian life -- not the mindless giddiness we currently associate with that word, but a deeper, more subtle joy and enthusiasm for living grounded in knowing who God is and who we are as the people of God.

It seems to me that this hilarity, as Dawn describes it, is the exact opposite of the joylessness I saw in the plodding lines of gamblers and in the dispirited ranks of the professional helpers assembled in the casino auditorium. But unfortunately, it's also an hilarity that seems to be missing from much of the Church as well. So often we do not respect the broad diversity in our midst, nor do we always take seriously the idea of forging real community among ourselves, or grounding ourselves in values other than personal acquisition and entertainment and trying to live up to some constantly shifting societal standard of normalcy.

I wasn't entirely enamored of Dawn's book, for reasons I'll get into in another post. But it gave me pause to think that perhaps whether we're in line for our Player's Club passes or "doing church," we're all missing the mark in a way that, to one degree or another, diminishes our quality of life. You can almost bet on it.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

When Worlds Collide

Dear God -- please don't let me make an ass of myself.

No, it's not a line from the Morning Prayer. Although maybe it should be.

I've been praying this a lot lately, as my circle of face-to-face friends has expanded to include people for whom the Church is not a warm and fuzzy place of refuge...who, frankly, probably wouldn't be caught dead inside the institutional Church.

And, ironically, those are the folks with whom I feel more at home than with the sort of chirpy, fresh-faced, Up-With-People churchy types who babble prooftexts and platitudes with the easy certitude of people whose faith seems disengaged from both their brains and from the experience of other human beings. Today I was wading through the very earnest, ignorant, florid Christianese Quatsch of a post on an online discussion forum, and I found myself thinking very uncharitable things: For God's sake, just SHUT UP. You're embarrassing the rest of us. (Which, of course, someone might be thinking now, reading this.)

But the fact remains that I'd rather pop a brewski with a jaded, Christianity-antagonistic hard case than share "quiet time" with a paragon of piety any day. The hard cases are generally fun, funny, generous, kind people; people I want to go out for a beer with. I know that my Christianity makes me an odd specimen in their circles. And I want to "represent" in a way that leaves them with an impression other than, Oh, Christ, not another one.

Dear God -- please don't let me make an ass of myself.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Interspecies Communication

I've been mixing it up with fundies on Beliefnet again.

There should probably be a support group for this.

"Hi. My name is LutheranChik, and I'm addicted to Beliefnet."

"Hello, LutheranChik!"

"I am here to admit that I am powerless to resist the influence of Beliefnet discussion forums. I try to resist -- I really do -- but there's something about the vomited prooftexts, the cheesy and mostly incomprehensible faux-King James gibberish, the Messianic complexes, the reactionary points of view that can I explain it?...attract me, in a sick way, like rubbernecking a car wreck on the freeway. And then I -- I just can't stop reading. And then I can't stop posting. And then I hate myself for being so weak, so vulnerable. Help me! Someone please help me!"

[Dope slap] "Stop going there, you knucklehead!"

[rubbing head] "Thanks. Thanks. I needed that."

What we have here, as the sheriff in the movie said, is a failure to communicate.

But I'm really here to talk about my dog.

My dog, as Constant Readers know, is an aged canine curmudgeon who generally hates everyone -- people, dogs, cats, horses, elephants and most other living things.

But now Cody's been spending quality time in a home with other pets. He's made friends with the resident dogs, two indulgent female golden retrievers. When he's around them he acts like a hormonal high school freshman who's accidentally stumbled into a women's locker room and found Maria Sharapova and Heidi Klum toweling off there; and the golden girls in turn treat him with a kind of amused tolerance: I'n't he just the cutest li'l fluffy thing. But, more than that, he has made friends with...a cat. You read it here. Felis domesticus.

Cito is a large, grumpy neutered tomcat who spends a considerable portion of the day sulking in a rocking chair away from the rest of the household. Humans, dogs or the other household cat who interrupt Cito's solitude are likely to be met with ears at half mast and a contemptuous look...maybe even a snarl.

But Cito and Cody, it turns out, get along just swell. Not a licky, rubby, fawning relationship, mind you. It's much more subtle: a benign nod in passing; a slight arch of the back; the hint of a tail wag.



It may be a male solidarity thing, since they're outnumbered by women five to two. Or it may be a size thing; even though Cito is about twice as big as Cody, both of them are still much smaller than the humans and goldens around them. But they're tight; they're buds, in their own quirky way.

It's kind of sweet.

What I Did On My Blog Vacation

What is life like without bloggery? I spent the last three days finding out.

Let's go to the videotape.

Friday night I cleaned house. I cleaned it really, really well. This doesn't always happen.

Saturday morning I went to a farmers' market in the downtown area of a Major Regional City. Who knew that only 35 miles away there was this amazing weekly event where you can buy everything from fingerling potatoes to Traverse City cherries to Amish bread to fresh herbs to perennials that I've never seen before? My co-shopper and I wandered wonderstruck from one stall to the other: Look...look...look...

Saturday noon I enjoyed a leisurely cheese, fruit and wine lunch on my front porch. This was so much fun. You could do this once a month and never run out of interesting combinations of cheese, fruit and wine. Our menu: little dibs and dabs of chevre, havarti and bleu cheese, and crusty rolls, and Bosc pears, Golden Delicious apples and cherries, and a California chardonnay.

Saturday afternoon I took a nap.

Saturday evening I went out to dinner. With people. And the best whitefish I have ever eaten in my entire life in the Water Winter Wonderland.

Sunday morning I went to church.

Sunday afternoon I went to a birthday party for a one-year-old. I wore a Hello Kitty birthday hat on my head, and sang "Happy Birthday" and everything. Then I came home and took another nap.

Saturday evening I made a big pan of ratatouille with some of my booty from the farmers' market. And then I watched TV. The TV shows weren't much, but I did notice myself enjoying the commercials. I like the new Capital One commercial with the barbarians working at summer camp; it made me laugh out loud, especially the song that goes, "Burn and pillage the next town/Dooh-dah! Dooh-dah!" I like the Daimler- Chrysler commerical with Dr. Z and the "That thing got a hemi?" guy. I went to bed early.

Well enough of that.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

(Almost) Friday Bloom Blogging

Here are my fancy-leaved geraniums -- Victorian-era painted ladies enjoying a revival. I love them.

Flowers, schmowers -- it's all about the leaves. Posted by Picasa

Another fancy-leaved geranium, variety unknownPosted by Picasa

Monday, July 03, 2006

"Best Parts of Songs" Meme: Popular Music Edition

Right at this very moment I am watching Rock Star: Supernova. Yes; me. Yes; that. It's a very guilty pleasure of mine, like Ben & Jerry's Phish Food or blogging instead of vacuuming. I'm enjoying the strong alto girlsingers getting all Janis up on stage; and an hour of reliving my high school air-guitar fantasies; and, on a related note, hearing grownups talk like high-schoolers ("Duuude! That killed! Rock on, man!")

So, since I'm in the mood, I'll present to you a meme I first saw on a fellow RevGalBlogPal's blog -- can't remember who, but a hat tip to you. These are not a list of favorite songs, but a list of favorite parts of songs. I've taken the liberty of narrowing the scope down to popular music (a category which to me includes music from decades long past), and including instrumental portions of songs. And these may not even be my favorite favorite parts of songs -- just five parts that make me grin, and perhaps also want to bring out my imaginary musical instruments, when I hear them. Feel free to borrow.

1. the drum solo interlude in "Sing, Sing, Sing" -- the greatest percussion piece of all time, in my humble opinion

2. The last part of REM's "It's the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)" -- and what a fun song that is -- where the band breaks into folky Peter-Paul-and-Mary harmonizing before a cacaphonic finish

3. "R-E-S-P-E-C-T..." -- sock it to me, Aretha

4. Clapton's guitar intro to "Layla"

5. The last minutes of "Stairway to Heaven"

Flick your Bic for five song bits that kill. Rock on.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

It's Not Easy Being Green...

...during this looooooong "green" season of Pentecost -- so I'll remind you that the RevGalBlogPals , including yours truly, have written and compiled a book of devotionals, Ordinary Time, that you can purchase by clicking the image on the RevGals' website. You can also read the devotionals here .

Getting Somewhere

Anyone reading who's at all acquainted with the Beatles knows about about the Nowhere Man, "sitting in his Nowhereland."

But today's Gospel lesson is all about two Nowhere Women.

The first is a woman rendered ritually unclean by what's described as a 12-year hemorrhage of blood; what a contemporary OB/GYN might label dysfunctional uterine bleeding. This disease was not only physically debilitating but also, in Jewish culture of the time, socially disastrous -- a condition that rendered the woman ritually unclean; not only that, but touching her, or being touched by her, would render others unclean as well. So she was, to use the Old Testament terminology, "cut off" from her community unless or until she was made well; there was no place for her otherwise in a society where remaining morally and ritually pure was an all-important, all-encompassing concern.

The second woman in the lesson is scarcely a woman at all; just a girl of twelve. And another nobody, in her own way, even before she fell ill. Because in her culture, her identity and value would always be inextricably and solely tied up in her relationships with men who would hold power over her; in her she would simply transition from daughter of her father to wife of her husband, subject to rules laid down and enforced by them and by the religious, economic and political powers to whom she was subject. And by the time Jesus arrives at her home, she has become truly a nobody, in that great transition from life to death. Now she, at the very cusp of adulthood, had arrived at the same place as her older sister in misery: unclean, "cut off."

Then Jesus shows up. And when Jesus shows up -- the Jesus who, in the Gospel of John, tell us that if we want to know what God is like we just need to see what he, Jesus is like -- nobodies have an uncanny habit of being transformed into somebodies; of being transported from a Nowhereland of rejection and despair to the Somewhere of God's household. And that's exactly what he does here. The bleeding woman -- an object of contempt and fear and most probably self-hatred -- is healed; and not only healed, but addressed as "Daughter," a rebuke to the idea that she is somehow outside the perimeters of God's reign. Likewise, Jesus takes the cold hand of the dead pubescent girl in his -- affirming her inclusion as valuable child of God by violating not only the rule about touching the dead but about touching a (theoretically) sexually mature woman not a wife or immediate female relative.

We all have our personal Nowherelands, cold and dark places where we find ourselves, every day, on the "outside." Jesus brings us in from the cold, in from the nowhere, into the warmth and welcome of God's household -- and not as visitors or hired help, but as sisters and brothers and co-heirs. Jesus challenges us to see ourselves not as "nobodies" but as Somebodies; persons loved and redeemed and called into relationship with him. Moreover, he challenges us, when we meet other "nobodies" around us, to see them as he does, as Somebodies needing the same love and care and community that we've been given.

The Beatles' Nowhere Man makes nowhere plans for nobody. Jesus, the Man For All, has made a Somewhere plan for everybody. That's good news to hear and to share.

"Thalitha Kumi," Magrit Prigge Posted by Picasa

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Weekend Bloom Blogging

Here are my phlox from my new purply perennial bed...I took this photo several weeks ago when they looked much perkier than they do now. Still can't find my camera cable. Durn.

Yo...St. Anthony...about that camera cable... Posted by Picasa